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Society of American Historians Names Marshall to Top Post

Megan Marshall headshot
Professor Megan Marshall

Professor Megan Marshall has been elected the next president of the Society of American Historians, the organization that awards the annual Francis Parkman Prize for best-written American history, along with several other honors for literary or academic distinction.  

Marshall, who teaches in the Writing, Literature and Publishing Department, will begin her one-year term in June. She joins the ranks of former past presidents including Jill Lepore, David Blight, Tony Horwitz, Eric Foner, and Frances Fitzgerald.

“Election to the presidency of the Society of American Historians is a profoundly meaningful honor, one I could not have expected when I became a member of the Society 15 years ago, after my first biography, The Peabody Sisters, received the SAH’s Francis Parkman Prize,” Marshall said.

“In selecting its writer members and award winners, the Society honors skillful, deeply researched communication on historical subjects, so perhaps it is fitting that an Emerson College professor should become its leader,” she added.  

Just three women had received the award in the 50 years prior to Marshall winning the Parkman Prize. At the time, Marshall, a former English major without a Ph.D., said she hadn’t considered herself a historian at all.

That early encouragement kept her working in the field, Marshall said and she became active in the Society, serving on the Executive Board and judging the Parkman Prize and the Allan Nevins Prize for the best-written doctoral dissertation in American History. She would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her second biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, as well as numerous awards and nominations for her work. Her latest book is Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, published in 2017.

Marshall said she is looking forward to her term at the helm of SAH.

“[It] will be full of challenges as we continue to experience a global health crisis that is sure to be the subject of important historical writing in years to come, and a presidential election season that will be unlike any other,” she said. “This is a good time to let history be our guide.”

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